Singapore raises terror alert on Malacca Strait, one of the world's most important oil shipping lanes
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore raised terror alert levels after a tip-off that terrorists are planning to attack vessels in the Malacca Strait. The threat hasn't prevented millions of barrels of oil from being shipped through the strait daily.
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Security analysts have said the Malacca Strait, also bordered by Singapore, is a prime target because more than 30 percent of global trade and half the world’s oil shipments pass through the narrow waterway.Skip to next paragraph
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John Harrison, a terrorism expert at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told the Associated Press that Al Qaeda and the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah would be the most likely to carry out such an attack.
Harrison said Singapore's warning likely reflects a credible threat.
"Both the Singapore navy and Home Affairs Ministry are not bodies that are known to hype any threats," Harrison said. "If they are putting this information out, it means they are very concerned that something may be developing."
"The shipping industry should and is taking this very seriously," he added.
Indonesian police have blamed Jemaah Islamiyah for suicide bombings of the J.W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta in July 2009 that killed seven people and the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
Piracy along the 550-mile strait was a major problem until about a year ago, but the danger has tapered off in recent years thanks to increased patrols. Terrorism is seen as a new problem, and the city-state of Singapore recently set up a center to handle threats in the strait; six countries have liaison offices in the city-state.
So far the warning has not affected shipping insurance rates, and shippers were continuing to use the route, says Reuters.
"Are people going to avoid the straits? I would be stunned if they did," said energy consultant John Vautrain of Purvin and Gertz in Singapore. "If you have to take additional security measures, you take them. That is less difficult than bypassing Malacca."